Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date including the franchise’s all-time leader in batting average. There’s also a game of note from Pops.
Ken Reitz, third baseman for the 1982 Pirates. He was a 31st round draft pick out of high school by the St Louis Cardinals in 1969, making it to the majors after just three seasons due to his strong glove at third base. Reitz was a decent hitter during his big league career, batting .260 with occasional power. He only won one Gold Glove during his career, but he led the National League in fielding percentage six times over his nine full seasons in the majors. His career .970 fielding percentage is tied for seventh best all-time. At 18 years old in his first season of pro ball, he hit .289 in 46 games. He moved up to the Florida State League in 1970, where he hit .290 with 33 doubles and 75 RBIs in 127 games. The next year in Double-A, Reitz batted .279 with 29 doubles and seven homers in 131 games. He moved up to Triple-A Tulsa of the American Association of 1972 and hit .279 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs in 118 games. In September he got a shot with the Cardinals and batted .359 in 21 games, which helped earn him a job with 1973. He played 142 games as the starting third baseman in 1973, hitting .235 with 20 doubles and six homers, while drawing just nine walks for a .256 OBP. In 1974, Reitz hit .275 with 28 doubles and seven homers in 154 games. He played 161 games in 1975 and won his lone Gold Glove award. He hit .269 with 25 doubles, five homers and 63 RBIs. In December, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Pete Falcone. Reitz hit .267 with five homers and 66 RBIs in 155 games in 1976. Almost exactly one year to the day that they parted ways with him, he was traded back to the Cardinals for pitcher Lynn McGlothen.
Reitz had a strong season at the plate in his first year back in St Louis. He hit .261 with 36 doubles and set career highs with 17 homers and 79 RBIs. The next year he batted .246 with 26 doubles, ten homers and 75 RBIs. In 1979, he set a career high with 41 doubles, while hitting .268 with 73 RBIs. He made his only All-Star appearance in his final season in St Louis, hitting .270 with 33 doubles and eight homers in 151 games. In the off-season he was part of a big trade with the Chicago Cubs, which included Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter. Reitz played eight years and 1,100 games in St Louis between 1972 and 1980. During the strike-shortened 1981 season with the Cubs, he hit .215 with two homers, 28 RBIs and career low .541 OPS. He was released by the Cubs at the end of Spring Training in 1982. Reitz signed with the Pirates on May 16th, playing seven games over three weeks before he was released. He made two starts at third base and went 0-for-11 at the plate. He played in the minors for the Cardinals in 1983, then after a year off, he spent the next three seasons in the minors, playing in Double-A for the Texas Rangers in 1985, followed by spending his last two years with San Jose of the California League, a single-A team filled with ex-Major League players. Reitz was a .260 hitter with 68 homers and 548 RBIs in 1,344 games. His .970 fielding percentage at third base is the ninth best in baseball history.
Al Gerheauser, pitcher for the 1945-46 Pirates. He was a lefty pitcher who made a career out of pitching during the war years, when many MLB players were serving in the military during WWII. Gerhauser pitched eight seasons in the minors before getting his first shot at the majors with the 1943 Philadelphia Phillies. He began his pro career at 18 years old in 1935 playing for a team from Rogers, Arkansas, which was a Class-D club, playing in two different leagues during his time there. Gerhauser went 12-14, 4.72 in 227 innings in 1936. He moved up to Joplin of the Western Association, a Class-C affiliate of the New York Yankees. He spent two seasons there, going 19-24, while throwing a total of 386 innings. From there he moved to Class-B Wenatchee of the Western International League, where he went 14-5, 3.46 in 177 innings. The next two years were spent with Kansas City of the American Association, which was basically one step from the majors. Gerhauser had a 3.22 ERA in 95 innings in 1940, then he went 8-11, 3.76 in 177 innings in 1941. From there it was on to Newark of the International League in 1942, where he put up a 14-12, 3.22 record in 201 innings. The Phillies acquired him in a trade with the Yankees during Spring Training in 1943 and he went right to the majors. As a rookie, he went 10-19, 3.60 in 215 innings. He was second on the team in wins and first in innings, with a Philadelphia team that finished in seventh place that year.
In 1944, Gerheauser slipped to 8-16 with a team high 4.58 ERA, while throwing 182.2 innings. On March 31, 1945, the Pirates traded outfielder Vince DiMaggio to the Phillies to get Gerheauser. He would be used 14 times as a starter and 18 times in relief during the 1945 season, going 5-10, 3.91 in 140.1 innings. He would be used more in a bullpen role the following season, making just three starts among his 35 outings. He went 2-2, 3.97 in 81.2 innings. Following the season, the Pirates traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers for infielder Eddie Basinski. Gerheauser spent all of 1947 in the minors before finishing his Major League career with the St Louis Browns the following year, going 0-3, 7.33 in 23.1 innings. He pitched in the minors until 1953, mostly playing in the Texas League, winning 146 games total over his 15 minor league seasons. His major league record was 25-50, 4.13 in 79 starts and 70 relief appearances, throwing a total of 643 innings. He threw over 3,000 innings in pro ball.
Rollie Hemsley, catcher for the 1928-31 Pirates. He had a 19-year career in the majors, making the All-Star team five times along the way. Hemsley spent the first three years of his pro career playing for Frederick of the Blue Ridge League, a Class-D team. In 1927, he hit .310 in 98 games, earning a shot with the Pirates for the 1928 season. He played 50 games his rookie season, batting .271 with 18 RBIs. In 1929, he became the platoon catcher with Charlie Hargreaves. Hemsley played 88 games, hitting a solid .289, although that average came with just 11 walks and no homers. He got the majority of the work behind the plate in 1930, catching in 98 of the 104 games he played that year. He batted .253 with 19 doubles and 45 RBIs. The following year Eddie Phillips became the regular catcher, leaving Hemsley with very little playing time during the month of May. On May 29, 1931, he was dealt to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Earl Grace. Hemsley would go on to bat .262 over 1,593 big league games, driving in 555 runs and scoring 562 times. He was strong defensively and led the league twice in assists, twice in caught stealing percentage and once in fielding percentage. He made his five All-Star appearances over a ten-year stretch from 1935-44, as a member of three different teams.
Hemsley batted .309 in 66 games for the 1931 Cubs after the trade. He saw part-time work during the 1932 season, hitting .238 with 17 extra-base hits in 60 games. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in the off-season as part of a four-for-one deal for Babe Herman. His stay in Cincinnati was short, as they dealt him to the St Louis Browns mid-season. Hemsley hit .213 in 81 games in 1933, then put up a .309 average with 40 extra-base hits and a career high 52 RBIs in 123 games during the 1934 season. He threw out 53% of attempting base stealers that season. He made his first All-Star appearance in 1935 when he set a career high with 144 games played. He hit .290 with a career high 32 doubles. Hemsley finished ninth in the American League MVP voting, his best career finish. He made his second All-Star appearance in 1936, hitting .263 with 24 doubles and 39 RBIs in 116 games. In 1937, he saw his average drop to .222, to go along with a .578 OPS, while playing 100 games. Hemsley was traded to the Cleveland Indians, where he was a backup for most of 1938, getting into just 66 games, though he managed to put up a .296 average. He was back to a starting role in 1939, when he earned his third All-Star appearance. He hit .263 with a career high 58 runs scored in 104 games.
Hemsley led the American League with a 60% caught stealing rate and a .994 fielding percentage during the 1940 season, his fourth All-Star campaign. He batted .267 with 20 doubles and 44 RBIs in 119 games. In 1941, he played 98 games, hitting .240 with 17 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs. Hemsley was sold to the Reds after the season and for a second time they didn’t hold on to him for the full year. He was released in July and signed with the New York Yankees, where he served as a backup to Hall of Famer Bill Dickey during the 1942-43 seasons. In 1944, Hemsley was the starter until mid-August when he was inducted into the Navy. He missed the 1945 season, then returned to play 51 games for the 1946-47 Philadelphia Phillies. Hemsley returned to the minors at age 40 in 1947, where he caught until 1952. He played his last games at age 49 in 1956, when he managed Charlotte of the South Atlantic League. During his time with the Pirates, he hit .264 with two homers and 101 RBIs in 252 games.
Kirtley Baker, pitcher for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys. After pitching briefly for the Quincy Black Birds of the Central Interstate League in 1889, Baker was one of many inexperienced pitchers that the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys put in the pitcher’s box, hoping to find a hidden gem. On the way to their franchise worst 23-113 record that season, the 20-year-old right-hander made 21 starts, pitched four other times in relief and he won just three games. No pitcher in franchise history with twenty or more decisions has a worse winning percentage than the .136 mark that Baker put up. His three wins were actually the second most on the team, as Pittsburgh tried twenty different starting pitchers throughout the year. Baker led the team in starts with 21, but his 19 losses were eight more than anyone else. History has kept him from being a 20-loss pitcher that year. Baker made his big league debut on May 1st and lost 4-3, but modern sources credit pitcher Henry Jones with that game, possibly because one Chicago source out of many sources mistakenly listed Jones (who pitched the next day), even though the recap was about Baker. Despite not getting credit for his debut and all of those losses, his season did have two highlights though, the first being a shutout over Cleveland on June 18th, followed two weeks later with a shutout against the Giants. His mound opponent during that second game was Hall of Fame pitcher and 300 game winner, Mickey Welch. Baker was suspended for the final six weeks of the season without pay due to an injured arm that kept him from pitching.
Baker went on to pitch parts of four other seasons in the majors, with things only getting slightly better, as he went 6-19 the rest of the way. He resurfaced with the 1893 Baltimore Orioles, where he went 3-8, 8.44 in 91.2 innings. The 1894 Orioles won the pennant, but he lasted just one game with the team and he gave up five runs without recording an out. He went four years without another big league appearance before joining the 1898 Washington Senators, where he went 2-3, 3.06 in 47 innings. That got him a job for 1899 with Washington, but he only lasted until June, posting a 1-7, 6.83 record in 54 innings. He won over 100 games in the minors, last pitching in 1900 for Springfield of the Eastern League. When he joined the Alleghenys, Baker was the most impressive pitcher early, earning praise from catcher George “Doggie” Miller, who said that he was the best young pitcher that he has ever caught. Baker also impressed in the preseason, putting together two games with 12 strikeouts apiece. During his time in Pittsburgh, his salary was $200 per month.
Jake Stenzel, outfielder for the 1892-1896 Pirates. He hit well and showed off tremendous speed in the minors but it took six seasons for Stenzel to get his first full-time job in the majors. He debuted in pro ball in 1887 with Wheeling of the Ohio State League, where he was a catcher. He batted .387 in 41 games. Stats aren’t available for 1888, but he was back with Wheeling that year, this time playing in the Tri-State League. He remained in that league with Springfield in 1889. Stenzel made his Major League debut with Chicago in June of 1890, hitting .268 in 11 games. He spent most of the year with Galveston of the Texas League, where he hit .307 in 4 games. The 1891 season was spent with Spokane of the Pacific Northwestern League, where he batted .351 with 68 stolen bases in 101 games. He moved to the Pacific Northwest League in 1892, playing for Portland. Stenzel hit .339 with 55 steals in 73 games. His team disbanded on August 28th and he signed immediately with the Pirates. He joined Pittsburgh at the end of the year, getting into three games without a hit. He was with the club for the final 38 games, but he didn’t play during the final four weeks. Despite that start with the team, he would go on to finish as the franchise’s all-time leader in batting average.
Stenzel came up as a catcher originally and saw some time at the spot in 1893, while mainly playing outfield. He played 60 games that year, hitting .362 with 37 RBIs and 57 runs scored. His salary that season was $1,800, the lowest on the team among the players who signed over the 1892-93 off-season. In 1894, he had his first big season for the Pirates, hitting .352 with 121 RBIs, 150 runs scored and 61 stolen bases. The 150 runs scored is the single season record in franchise history. His stolen base and RBI marks each still rank in the top ten in team history. In 1895, he batted .371, which ranks fifth in team history, trailing seasons by Paul Waner (2), Honus Wagner and Arky Vaughan. Stenzel hit .361 with 57 stolen bases in 1896, his third straight season with 100+ runs, 80+ RBIs, .350+ batting average and 50+ steals. He’s the only player in MLB history to reach all of those marks in the same season four times (1894-97) and he has more of those seasons than everyone else in Pirates history combined.
The Pirates looked to add defense to their strong hitting for 1897, dealing Stenzel and three other players to the Baltimore Orioles for Steve Brodie and Jim Donnelly. Brodie was an outstanding defensive center fielder, who could also hit, although not as well as Stenzel, who also possessed more speed. The trade was made one year too soon for the Pirates, as Stenzel had a huge 1897 season. He hit .353 with 116 RBIs and 69 stolen bases, while leading the league with 43 doubles. His play quickly dropped off after that season and by the middle of the 1899 campaign he was out of baseball for good. He decided to quit in July that year because he purchased a saloon from former Pittsburgh Alleghenys player Jim Keenan. Stenzel played for the St Louis Browns for parts of 1898-99 and he finished his career with the Cincinnati Reds. He told reporters that his time in St Louis ended immediately after he bunted into a double play, with his manager releasing him mid-game when he got back to the bench. He retired as a .338 hitter in 768 big league games, with 664 runs scored, 533 RBIs and 292 stolen bases. While with the Pirates, he batted .360 in 1,987 plate appearances. His .429 on base percentage is also the highest total in franchise history.
On this date in 1965, the Pirates won 13-3 over the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Willie Stargell hitting three homers and a double, while driving in six runs. The first two homers came against Hall of Famer Don Drysdale. This was the first of four games in his career with three homers. The six RBIs were a career high at the time, one which he topped three years later in his second three-homer game. Roberto Clemente had three hits in the game. Here’s the boxscore.